Thursday, December 30, 2010

International Performing Arts Lab and Conference: Call for Artists

May 17 - 24, 2011
Leitring bei Leibnitz, Austria

International Performing Arts Lab and Conference is inviting participants to take part in an intensive programme of practical training, lectures, discussions guided by the Russian theatre director and teacher Sergei Ostrenko, and a conference programme with leading experts and teachers from different countries.

Special discounted fees are available for artistic ensembles and their leaders as well as senior students groups and their teachers!

Participants are actors of physical, dramatic, dance, musical theatres, circus performers, directors, choreographers, visual artists, sound and light designers. Talents from different backgrounds, genre and style can draw from Ostrenko's system and develop their skills according to their field of expertise, enlarge personal horizons and create connections with colleagues from all over the world.

The programme is focused on Ostrenko's method of actor’s training, relying on the Russian Theatre Tradition and the newest experiments in performing arts. Participants will practically explore physicality as the principal creative instrument, the key to form, style, atmosphere and emotional palette in contemporary performance, stepping beyond the limits of habitual text-based acting. Performer's physicality in the methods of Stanislavsky, Meyerhold and M.Chekhov, Meyerhold's Biomechanics Etudes, Tai-chi for actors, Training by method of improvisation, scene composition from exercises to performance: these are some of the elements uniquely transformed and combined in Ostrenko's teaching system to suit performers, directors and teachers contemporary needs.

The Lab and Conference are a great opportunity to approach a unique methodological and practical material that will enrich your professional skills and will offer you the possibility to share an intense creative experience at a global level!

The event will take place in the "Green Heart" of Austria, Styria Region, at the historic 15th century castle. Nearest international airports - Graz and Vienna, Austria.
Accommodation and meals are organized.

Registration: candidates should send a letter of motivation stating the Lab dates and CV/résumé with photo to

More details:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A rapist who dodged jail, or a Palestinian man unjustly accused?: A Discussion, Part Two


A little background in case you haven't been following along: My post about the case of Sabbar Kashur, the Palestinian Israeli man charged with "rape by deception" of an Israeli Jewish woman was inspired by a post on the blog/online magazine +972 (subtitled "Independent commentary from Israel and the Palestinian Territories") written by Lisa Goldman. As I wrote in Part One Goldman, a Canadian-Israeli based in Jaffa, responded to a cover story about the case by Lital Grossman that ran in the Tel Aviv weekly magazine Ha’Ir (The City), in which she questioned the role of anti-Arab racism in Kashur's sentencing. Goldman suggested that since the lesser change of "rape by deception" was a plea-bargain Kashur actually benefited from being Palestinian by using his ethnicity to avoid jail time. The subtext, that excessive Israeli compassion for Palestinians blinds them to their criminality, is a familiar--if mournful-- refrain among "Liberal Zionists", and it was the red flag that drew my attention in the first place.

Before writing about it here at the POMEGRANATE I responded to Goldman on the comment thread following her post at +972. When our interaction went past a few posts I tried to opt out--in my experience the internet often inspires an obsessive tit-for-tat that kills potentially productive discussions. So, rather than dominate her comment thread I wrote my own post and told Goldman she was welcome to continue our interaction here. Unsurprisingly she did not take me up on my offer but I want to reproduce our final exchange anyway as a folow up because it was fruitful in teasing out the multiple threads--gender, race, Orientalism/Islamophobia (which she dismissed as "hackneyed terms" Ha.), sexism , nationalism etc.--that are tangled together in this case. Anyone interested in reading our exchange in its original context should refer to the comment thread following Goldman's post.

ME: Lisa, I don’t want to bicker with you and clog up your comment thread. But: of course I am not suggesting that it is impossible for Kashur to be guilty because he is Palestinian– I am arguing only that the case for rape against him could not be proved. However, once B’s testimony was made widely available Grossman and you (and others around the net) decided that it was credible, despite her universally understood mental instability, which is a bit unnerving. You wrote , “B’s story sounds believable”… Why? And what makes you conclude that Kashur may be guilty of rape after all because he served time on a lesser charge? As I have said, that makes no sense to me. In fact, the only way I can think of to justify your conclusions in the above post is anti-Arab racism.

[...] If you feel I have misrepresented your argument please let me know and I’ll happily note that. In your last response you made a distinction between Grossman’s take on the case and your own that is not clear to me from the original post. I do not want to attribute opinions to you that are better described as Grossman’s, even if I ultimately disagree with the rest of what you have written. I appreciate that you have responded to me and I’ll publish any comment you make over at VS the POMEGRANATE. Does that seem fair?

LISA GOLDMAN: [Responding first to another commenter who'd critiqued my earlier post.] Maayan, you and Joseph are exactly the same types. If you had been born a Palestinian-American, you would have chosen his argument. Neither one of you is capable of seeing beyond your biases to examine a case based on facts. You are both blinded by your agendas and your prejudices.

LISA GOLDMAN: Joseph, if Sabur Kashur had been a Jewish Israeli man, the charges against him would have been dismissed.

However, the charges would have been dismissed not because he was innocent, but because he could not have been charged with rape by deception.

The defense attorney wanted to question the plaintiff about 14 previous incidents of rape and incest. Neither her attorney nor the judge thought she capable of maintaining her composure while she was questioned about previous rapes. At that point, seeing that he was about to lose his conviction, the prosecutor charged Kashur with rape by deception. And even here the ‘deception’ was not only the odious charge that Kashur presented himself as a Jew, but that he presented himself as a *bachelor* Jew, when he was in fact a *married* Palestinian.

My comparison between the judge’s wording of the plea bargain and EM Forster is not sarcastic, by the way; it is literal. The transcripts show that the judge would have convicted on the evidence, but could not legally override the defense’s request to question the plaintiff about her past. But his dissatisfaction with the plea bargain does not make his racist, colonialist wording acceptable.

The physical evidence against Kashur was solid. Police found the victim battered, bleeding and naked in a stairwell. She was taken to a hospital, examined and given a rape kit. Based on that evidence and her statement to the police, charges were brought against Kashur. Based on the transcripts of the trial, her testimony sounds very credible. If the defense attorney had not insisted on his right to question the plaintiff about her past, Kashur would most probably have been convicted on the original charges.

ME: Lisa, Thank for your last response to me (Sunday , December 26, 4:09)– In it, you were much more clear than in your original post, which conflated Grossman’s conclusions with your own. As promised I will integrate it into my own post.

However, based on your response it seems you missed an opportunity with your original post. The fact that the Defense has the right to question an accuser about her past in a rape trial is the point here, *not* the ethnicity of the alleged perpetrator. Under these terms an Israeli Jewish man would have gotten off completely so Kashur’s ethnicity actually worked against him here, which is the exact opposite of what Grossman (and you) suggest. But if you had focused on the fundamental sexism of Israeli rape law and its subsequent role in earning Kashur a reduced sentence you might have really had something here. I cannot help but wonder why you centered your post around Kashur then? Do you blame me for wondering about your motives when, given the opportunity to critique a sexist Israeli law you instead blamed the Palestinian guy? Especially given that Kashur’s conviction was predicated on his ethnicity, since a Jewish Israeli man committing the same crime would have gone free in the same circumstances?

I appreciate your devotion to “facts”, even if you framed your concern for the truth as a dig at me. If your original post about Kashur had been that straightforward and factual I wouldn’t have commented in the first place. But it wasn’t. And that you became so extraordinarily defensive when I pointed out the blind spots and inconsistencies in your post (some of which you still have not addressed) is telling. You have entreated me to “research” your past positions as a way to contextualize this post but if you had written it in such a way that was consistent with the kind of analysis you are clearly capable of, I wouldn’t have to.

Look, you live in a racist society. As an American, so do I. Any analysis of a case involving members of a privileged majority and an oppressed minority that does not engage with that simple fact is flawed at the root, even if it pretends toward “objectivity.” That has been my only point here.

Couple things tough:

1) I am not a “type” I am a man–singular. Don’t you think it is bad form to erase my humanity so summarily? Please note that at no point did I do this to you.
2) I am not Palestinian or Palestinian-American. Or Muslim, if you are wondering.
3) I do not have an “agenda” here beyond holding you accountable for being clear about what you are trying to say.
4) I don’t hate anybody. I’m just not an idiot–when liberals from racist societies (however unintentionally) reproduce racist ideologies in their work I notice. Sometimes if it is important enough I am compelled to comment. That’s all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

RIP Teena Marie

Dead at 54. Just like my dad. Too young.

Rest in peace Vanilla Starchild. Your music was part of the soundtrack to my youth. Lovergirl was the first fast song at my senior dance. It is hard to imagine a world without you in it.

I was the one
who said tune in tomorrow
I love to the bone marrow, even when I am asleep and
who are you to say
what I did when you weren't around
just because I fell in love with you
Casanova Brown
standing room only, the concerts sold out
everyone's there for the party
the hush turns to a shout
everyone's got a piece
of the pie
of you and I
but nobody knows when the lights dim down
that the tears fall harder than the whole damn crowd

--Casanova Brown

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A rapist who dodged jail, or a Palestinian man unjustly accused?: A Discussion

Sabbar Kashur, on the cover of Ha’Ir (The City) magazine

On Christmas Eve in among the silly holiday tweets on my feed was an RT from Slate's @amandamarcotte that pointed to a blogpost from Israeli blogger Lisa Goldman about Sabbar Kashur, a Palestinian Muslim Israeli man accused of raping a Jewish Israeli woman. Marcotte urged those of us who were "hand-wringing" over the treatment of the Palestinian Kashur by the Israeli court to "go read this", implying that there was new evidence of Kashur's guilt. On December 3rd Ha’Ir (The City), a weekly magazine distributed only in Tel Aviv, published a cover story by Lital Grossman that openly questioned the allegations of anti-Arab racism in light of the details of Kashur's sentence, which was revealed to have been a plea bargain. Grossman's article inspired Goldman's blogpost (and Marcotte's tweet) and all three summarily dismiss the effects of anti-Arab racism on Kashur's case on feminist grounds.

After two years under house arrest Kashur was finally charged earlier this year with "rape by deception", based on the accusation that he had mis-represented himself to his accuser--called "B" by the court to protect her identity--as a single Jewish Israeli rather than the married Palestinian Israeli Muslim he is. The court's decision was openly questioned and sparked debate about the secondary role of Palestinians with Israeli society and their subsequent vulnerability to the law. In response to these criticisms the judge revealed that Kashur's sentence of rape by deception was a plea bargain. The lesser charge, which led to an 18 month sentence for Kashur, was proposed by the prosecution because the more serious rape charge could not be proved. In her unsealed testimony B affirmed,

“He took off my pants and underwear [...] and all of this was done with force, I didn’t agree to anything… I was left in just my shirt. Then he took off his clothes… then he put saliva on his penis and then, it was like full penetration, like, it wasn’t with consent as he claims. He laid me on the floor… and asked to kiss my chest too and then like when I asked him to stop and tried to push him away, he started pressuring me with his arms forcefully on me… when I tried to push him with my hand in his stomach, this happened in a more advanced stage, when he was already inside of me, then he said that if I stay silent and I don’t resist, then it would like end faster and it wouldn’t be, like, he wouldn’t use force. I still resisted him and it was forced.”

The blogger Goldman concludes that B’s story "sounds believable"... although she does not explain why she thinks so. She writes, "Based on her testimony it appears that she was not a racist but rather a terribly vulnerable, emotionally damaged woman who was desperate for affection." So for Goldman B's emotional vulnerability precludes the possibility of her racism, a false binary that disregards the fact that, however desperate her circumstances, B is a member of a privileged ethnic group within Israel and Kashur isn't.

According to Goldman,

“B,” was an emotionally traumatized woman in her 20s who had been raped by her father from the age of six. On the day she met Kashur, she was living in a women’s shelter. Before that, she had worked briefly as a prostitute and spent some time living on the streets. Kashur lured her into the building on Hillel Street with the claim that he worked there and wanted to show her his office; he then assaulted her and raped her, leaving her naked and bleeding – which is how the police discovered her. B. was later hospitalized in a psychiatric institution, where the police questioned her about the rape, which led them to Kashur. During the trial, after it became apparent that B’s past, combined with her emotional state, made her a vulnerable witness, the prosecution came up with a plea bargain of rape by deception.

Goldman sums up her evaluation of Kashur's case, writing, "Kashur was not unjustly punished because he was an Arab, but the opposite: [...] he managed to avoid the punishment he deserved because his ethnicity made it possible to plead guilty to the lesser charge of rape by deception, thus avoiding jail time." This gymnastic logic employs lack of evidence for the greater charge, which would normally be construed as lack of guilt (if not proof of innocence) as the opposite. In other words, for Goldman the fact that the prosecution could not make a case against Kashur for rape is "proof" of his guilt.

Goldman writes,

The judges’ wording of the verdict seemed to be inspired by E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, or an Oriental version of To Kill a Mockingbird, with Kashur as Tom Robinson, the black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman in 1930s Alabama. “If she hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated,” wrote the judges. Judge Tsvi Segal added, “The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price – the sanctity of their bodies and souls .”

The angle of Goldman's post (and Grossman’s story), that being Palestinian is in any way advantageous in Israel is utterly fantastic… But the notion that minority populations derive benefit from their abject status is a pretty standard charge. She makes light of the obvious comparisons to Forster and Lee’s stories even as she recounts the Israeli court’s description of Kashur as a “sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminal” who preys on “innocent (Jewish, female) victims”, which is pretty much the basic narrative of all the “Darkie Wants Our Women” stories ever written. Further, his accuser's lack of mental coherence, which substantiates her accusations for Grossman, Goldman and Marcotte could also easily disqualify them... And no, it is not "victim blaming" to point that out, especially since all parties involved agree that B is mentally unblanced. Neither is it "rape apology", given the long history of male racial and ethnic "others" getting tortured, killed and/or imprisoned based on the say-so of white women in racist societies. Or white men acting of their behalf, regardless of their wishes. The story of Emmet Till, a black fourteen year old boy who was literally beaten to a pulp because he was alleged to have flirted with a white girl in 1955 Mississippi is emblematic of the special vulnerability of men of color to charges of sexual violence.

Emmett Till, before and after reportedly flirting with a white woman

I would never suggest something as stupid and vile as the idea that men of color are never guilty of sexual violence or that racism (Orientalism, Islamophobia, etc.) is ever an excuse for rape. But racism inevitably shapes the dynamic when the alleged victims are members of a privileged majority, the accused attackers are minorities, and the society in which the charge is made is based on a fundamentally racist distinction between them. A blanket dismissal of such entrenched hierarchies grants free access to a wealth of racist repertoires about "dark"men under the cover of liberal discourses like feminism. If we can agree that allegations of rape should be taken seriously, can we not also agree that institutionalized racism should not be waved away because it complicates the frame in which they are made? This dynamic is especially stark in a country like Israel, whose ethno-nationalist illusions are formalized as law, but it is no less a factor in the United States, with its melting-pot pretensions. It seems clear though, based on Gloria Steinem's remarks during the last election that there is a line of feminist thinking--often espoused by white, middle class, westerners-- which argues the reverse: that gender trumps all other considerations, a proscription that has potentially deadly consequences for men of color.

Goldman writes,

There are few unassailable facts or bottom lines here. A woman who may or may not have been raped is in a psychiatric hospital, traumatized and unable to communicate coherently. Perhaps a rapist who should have have been jailed is now a free man, wandering around Jerusalem shopping malls with his kids while the woman he raped is institutionalized, physically and emotionally traumatized. Or perhaps an innocent man was forced to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit, in order to avoid being sentenced to jail by judges who were biased against Arabs. None of these issues were raised in the original reporting of the affair. None of the reporters covering the story when it first broke, in July, mentioned having applied to the courts to obtain the unsealed testimony. The polarized, angry atmosphere in contemporary Israel seems to make rational, detached analysis nearly impossible. This is a very troubling state of affairs. It is also quite dangerous.

There is no way for anyone to know for certain what went on between B and Kashur, which is why in democracies we depend on the law to guide us to resolution. If proved guilty of B’s rape there is no question that Kashur should be punished, but he wasn’t and he was punished anyway. Goldman's post (and Grossman’s story), which suggest that Kashur’s Palestinian identity earned him a legal advantage purposefully obscures two key points: 1) The court made his ethnicity an issue and the justification for his charge and 2) His ethnicity is only important in the first place because Palestinian Israelis are not equal citizens with their Jewish neighbors. No matter how “macho” Israeli society is--another argument made by Goldman to explain Kashur's reduced sentence-- the notion that Jewish Israeli men feel solidarity or even empathy (!) with a Palestinian man accused of raping a Jewish Israeli woman is too ridiculous to contemplate. Israeli Apartheid precludes the possibility of such collusion.

Goldman is correct when she writes that the particular arrangement of Israeli society make "rational, detached analysis nearly impossible" but she seems to exempt herself from this dynamic. However in raising concerns about Kashur's case without acknowledging the role of institutionalized racism in Israel she perpetuates its most pernicious memes about Arab criminality (which occurs only in a vacuum and never as a response to living within a racist system). Only someone who benefits from it could conclude that a Palestinian accused of a crime that could not be proved has somehow beaten the system by serving eighteen months in an Israeli jail. Goldman is also correct when she describes the situation around Kashur's case as "dangerous."

What is less clear in her analysis is, dangerous for whom?


Lisa Goldman responded to my critique of her post about Kashur on her blog +972. Because this post is already long I have reproduced the key section of our exchange in Part Two.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Rocket wishes you a sleepy Christmas and a relaxing New Year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spike Lee Signs His New Book: Do The Right Thing

Spike Lee: Do The Right Thing

By Spike Lee and Jason Matloff

Book Signing

Thursday, December 16, 7–8:30PM

The powerHouse Arena · 37 Main Street (corner of Water & Main St.) · DUMBO, Brooklyn
For more information, please call 718.666.3049

Spike Lee is stopping by The powerHouse Arena to sign copies of Spike Lee: Do The Right Thing, a new book that celebrates the 20th anniversary of the film's seminal debut.

About the book:

Spike Lee: Do The Right Thing is an unprecedented, insider's look at the film, with behind-the-scenes visuals and interviews celebrating the impact of Do The Right Thing on American culture.

Do The Right Thing remains one of the most controversial films of its era. Employing director Spike Lee's hometown of Brooklyn as the essential setting, this explosive film masterfully explores race and class relationships.

Both a critical and popular success, Do The Right Thing became a landmark film that brought serious issues in the African American community to light and established Lee as a major director in American cinema. Lee also wrote the screenplay, produced, and even starred in this deeply personal film, which was applauded for its commanding visuals provided by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, intense performances by an all-star cast, and an assertive soundtrack featuring Public Enemy's Fight the Power.

The film is even credited with bringing President Barack Obama and the First Lady together on their first date!

About the author:

Spike Lee and his film company, 40 Acres and a Mule, continue to shine the light on controversial subjects through award-winning feature films and documentaries. Lee is also the artistic director of the graduate film program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

There Is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed

Date: Friday, December 10, 2010, 8 pm
Location: The New School Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, Arnhold Hall, 2nd Floor, 55 W 13th St, New York

FREE. No RSVP necessary.

A co-presentation with the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis & the New School

Cabinet, The National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis, and the New School present a screening of There Is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed and Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering, parts 3 and 4 of The Century of the Self, the extraordinary BBC documentary on the intertwined histories of Sigmund Freud, modern consumerism, and representative democracy. At its heart is the idea that public relations and politicians have used Freud's theories to engineer a society of consent.

The screening will be preceded by an introduction by George Prochnik, Cabinet contributor and author of Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam, and the Purpose of American Psychology (2006) and In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise (2010). It will be followed by an open discussion with psychoanalyst Martin Bergmann, who is a participant in the documentary.

Parts one and two of the documentary (Happiness Machine and The Engineering of Consent,) were screened on November 12, with a short introduction by Jane Kupersmidt, faculty at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis and member of the Freudian Society. A transcript of the introduction is available here. The first two parts of the The Century of the Self can be seen online here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rumble Ghost: A dance performamce based on Poltergeist

P S 122 presents the WORLD PREMIERE of JACK FERVER’s


Wednesday December 8th - Sunday December 12th

8pm with a late show at 10 pm on Saturday December 11th

Tickets $20, $15 (students/seniors), $11 (with the PS122 Passport - limited availability!)

Tickets can be purchased here
or calling 212-352-3101
PS 122 is located at 150 1rst Ave @ E. 9th Street

Rumble Ghost is a psychological dance-play that channels the classic 80s horror film Poltergeist.

"Horror movies will never be as terrifying and shocking as the human psyche. They act as metaphors – scary stories that offer a release or escape from the more devastating twists and turns of an unquiet mind. Without ghosts to explain haunted houses, we are left with the pain sites of crumbling careers, failing marriages, abused children. In Rumble Ghost, as the flimsy membrane between an American horror movie classic and the fragility of the human condition deteriorates, the darkest place in the world is shown to be right up there: in your mind.

Performed in Jack Ferver’s “hyper-reality” style, seven performers reinterpret the 1982 classic horror film Poltergeist, exploring pop-psychological landscapes with movement, original music, and a highly calibrated script. The Poltergeist theme corrodes and gives way to a group therapy session, created from Ferver’s personal experience with “Inner Child Work”, in a therapy technique aptly called: Psychodrama. As the performers are overtaken by their own child selves, a disturbing spectacle confronts the audience and a fearless exploration of the company’s own personae ensues."

Written and Choreographed by Jack Ferver.

Performed by Benjamin Asriel, Reid Bartelme, Christian Coulson, Carlye Eckert, Jack Ferver, Michelle Mola, Breanna O’Mara

Dramaturgy by Joshua Lubin-Levy
Assistant Dramaturgy by Samara Davis
Original Score by Calder Singer
Costumes by Reid Bartelme

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens

Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens
By Liz Goldwyn

WHAT: Paperback Launch Party, Reading, and Signing
WHEN: Wednesday, December 8, 7–9PM
WHERE: The powerHouse Arena · 37 Main Street (corner of Water & Main St.) DUMBO, Brooklyn

For more information, please call 718.666.3049

Training her journalist's eye on the glitter and glamour of American burlesque's greatest generation, Liz Goldwyn takes readers on an enthralling tour of the original queens of the striptease. Goldwyn's incisive exposé is a retrospective of the sights and spectacles of burlesque's golden age—and an intimate look at the women whose sexuality, ambition, and verve brought the cabaret stage to life. Join us for an exclusive reading and paperback launch party for what V Magazine calls "the most comprehensive study on the era of burlesque."

About the book:

Liz Goldwyn's lifelong fascination with the inimitable glamour of classic burlesque inspired her to spend the past eight years corresponding with, visiting, interviewing, receiving striptease lessons from, and forming close relationships with the last generation of the great American burlesque queens. Goldwyn invites us to step back into an era when the hourglass figure was in vogue and striptease was a true art form.

Pretty Things introduces readers to legendary burlesque icons including:

  • Betty "Ball of Fire" Rowland, who was known for her flaming red hair and bump-and-grind routines. (It turns out she once sued the author's grandfather, Samuel Goldwyn Jr., for using her stage name and costume in his Hollywood picture, Ball of Fire.)
  • Sherry Britton, who, with her long black hair and curvy, trim physique, was among the most stunning of the burlesque stars before Mayor LaGuardia outlawed burlesque in New York.
  • Zorita, whose sexually explicit "Consummation of the Wedding of the Snake" dance (performed with a live snake) and other daring performances earned her legendary status.
With Pretty Things, Goldwyn draws back the curtain to reveal the personal journeys of yesteryear's icons of female sexuality and power, restoring their legacy to an age that has all but forgotten them—despite today's resurgence of burlesque. Drawing from hundreds of archival photographs, costume sketches, newspaper clippings, and mementos that Goldwyn has collected along the way, Pretty Things is at once a feast for the eyes, a history of the art of burlesque, and a lovingly documented story of stardom and self-discovery.

About the Author:

Liz Goldwyn has worked in fashion, art, and photography since the age of sixteen. She has produced major fashion shows and art installations, helped establish the fashion department at Sotheby's New York, and was a global consultant for Shiseido America. She writes feature articles for national magazines, and designs her own collection of jewelry. Her documentary film on burlesque queens, Pretty Things, premiered in July 2005 on HBO. Goldwyn lives in Los Angeles.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

DESARROLLAR: A Gallery Exhibition and Solo Performance

[This fascinating exhibition/performance comes via my friend Makram--the fellow in the bit above-- who curated the HOME-LAND show I just did at his space 49B]


by Laura Schwamb and Makram Hamdan

A gallery exhibition and solo performance at Center for Performance Research

A collaboration of visual art and dance, the evening begins with a gallery exhibition of works by Laura Schwamb. Her videos, animated neon, and black and white images set the atmosphere for the performance. Her concept of having a human bridle fabricated was beautifully realized and made possible by Johnny Farah. The exhibition is followed by a solo performance in the main theater by Makram Hamdan. Using the show's theme, conceived by Laura Schwamb, Makram Hamdan engages to push the limits of poetic control, visceral constraint, and physical endurance in a challenging semi-autobiographical performance based on memory.

CPR - Center for Performance Research December 9, 10, and 11. 2010.

Gallery exhibition opens at 7:00pm - Performance begins at 8pm - SHARP

Tickets: $15 - advance purchase recommended -

Directions: 361 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn (b/w Jackson St. & Withers St.). L Train to Graham Avenue (3rd Stop in Brooklyn) / Exit right out of turnstile / Left on Graham / Left on Jackson / Right on Manhattan.

General Inquiries (non-press): 718-349-1210

Makram Hamdan (Choreographer and performer) Originally from Lebanon, Makram Hamdan’s emigration to Portland, OR as a teen, initiated his dance training. Subsequently, he graduated from the California Institute of the Arts. Another emigration to France launched his professional dance career, notably with Jean-Claude Gallotta, CCN de Grenoble. While in France, he also began working with Robert Wilson as a performer, then, as choreographer and assistant director both in Europe and at Wilson's Watermill Center in Long Island, NY. With a strong desire to design gardens, he established Makram Hamdan Designs, and began creating grand-scale gardens for private clients. Currently living in Brooklyn's vibrant arts neighborhood of Bushwick, Hamdan founded 49B Studios, an artists' residence loft and exhibition space and recently curated his first exhibition titled HOME-LAND for BETA Spaces 2010 and co-presented with ArteEast. 49B Studios

Laura Schwamb (Visual Artist) Lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, where she works in different media centered around the day-to-day psychological moments of the experience of being alive, balancing between the physical and the spiritual and the transitions of being and becoming.

Johnny Farah (Leather Goods Designer) Johnny Farah's early influences came from Copenhagen. Living there in the 70’s, he developed a particular interest in the simplicity and practicality of the Scandinavian architecture and furniture design, more specifically in the way different materials like concrete, iron, wood or leather were put to their full formal and functional potential. Following Johnny’s life-changing encounter with architects Arne Jacobson and Hans Wegner, he decided to concentrate on his leather designs, which, up until then, were only a means to support his studies. Johnny Farah has since become a global brand.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fire in My Belly by David Wojnarowicz, Censored at the Smithsonian

Fire in My Belly, David Wojnarowicz (1987)
Music by Diamanda Galas

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) was a painter, writer, filmmaker and performance artist who died of AIDS-related complications in 1992 at 37. In 1990 he won an important lawsuit against conservative Christian Donald Wildmon's American Family Association, who'd appropriated some of his work for one its tracts. The judgment read, in part,
[David Wojnarowicz] earns his living by selling his art works, many of which are assertedly directed at bringing attention to the devastation wrought upon the homosexual community by the AIDS epidemic. Plaintiff attempts through his work to expose what he views as the failure of the United States government and public to confront the AIDS epidemic in any meaningful way. To this end, plaintiff's art at times incorporates sexually explicit images for the avowed purpose of shaping community attitudes towards sexuality. As a result, his works have been the subject of controversy and public debate concerning government funding of non-traditional art.

[...] On or about April 12, 1990, the AFA and Wildmon published and distributed throughout the United States, including the Southern District of New York, the AFA pamphlet (the "pamphlet") in an effort to stop public funding by the NEA of art works such as plaintiff's. The pamphlet was mailed to 523 members of Congress, 3,230 Christian leaders, 947 Christian radio stations and 1,578 newspapers, at least twenty-eight of which were located in this district. Without plaintiff's authorization, Wildmon photographically copied fourteen fragments of plaintiff's works which he believed most offensive to the public and reproduced these fragments in the AFA pamphlet. These fourteen images, with three exceptions, explicitly depict sexual acts. The other three images portray Christ with a hypodermic needle inserted in his arm, and two ambiguous scenes which plaintiff represents as respectively depicting an African purification ritual and two men dancing together.

Wildmon wrote the text of the pamphlet, which is entitled "Your Tax Dollars Helped Pay For These `Works of Art.'" It states in the introductory sentence that "the photographs appearing on this sheet were part of the David Wajnarowicz [sic] 'Tongues of Flame' exhibit catalog." The envelope in which the AFA pamphlet was mailed states that the "[p]hotos enclosed in this envelope were taken from the catalog of the `Tongues of Flame' exhibit" and is marked "Caution — Contains Extremely Offensive Material."

Wojnarowicz only received a dollar when he won the suit, but he succeeded in preventing Wildmon from distributing altered images of his artwork for his hate campaign--and won a rare victory in the early years of the culture wars.

Untitled (1990), David Wojnarowicz
(in collaboration with Phil Zwickler and Rosa von Praunheim)
still from the film "Silence = Death"

Eighteen years after his death Wojnarowicz's art is still disturbing Christian conservatives, who are still arguing that taxpayer money should not support it, only this time he isn't winning... His video Fire in My Belly (1987) appeared in the National Portrait Gallery show Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture until it was removed on November 30th. It had been on display since the show opened a month earlier but objections to an image of ants crawling on a plastic crucifix in it's first few seconds led by Catholic League President William Donohue, who called the video "vile... hate speech," impelled the Smithsonian to remove it from display. The office of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the presumptive incoming speaker of the House also issued a statement that read, "American families have a right to expect better from recipients of taxpayer funds in a tough economy. While the amount of money involved may be small, it's symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans' hard-earned money." (As part of the Smithsonian the National Gallery receives public funds.) These are shockingly similar to the attacks Wojnarowicz withstood when he was alive and using his art to shock an apathetic public into acknowledging the human cost of the AIDS crisis that ultimately ended his life. The fact that they are still being made is not that shocking considering the enormous percentage of loud, stupid D-bags swarming all over public life in this country like ants on a dropped popsicle. What is shocking is that they still work.

The fact that this happened the day before World AIDS Day is a sickening reminder of how little ground has been gained. The video, which attempts to represent the physical and emotional pain caused by AIDS, is primitive by today's standards. But the punk, DIY quality of it is a visceral reminder that it is a time capsule from 1987, when brilliant artists like David Wojnarowicz were getting sick and dying so, so young. Watch Fire in My Belly above and give it a minute. If you suspend your 21st century cynicism and let the historical context reach you, you may have a brief echo of what it was like to work in the arts then and watch helplessly as people you cared about died all around you for no reason, while the President blithely ignored the crisis.


Diamanda Galás Responds to the Smithsonian’s Removal of David Wojnarowicz’s Work:

Diamanda Galás, the composer and performer of the This is the Law of the Plague (1986), which is the soundtrack to part of Wojnarowicz's Fire in My Belly responded to its removal from the Hide/Seek exhibition by the Smithsonian. She writes,

The cross is a symbol of the CRUCIFIXION, among the cruelest tortures in the world. This is the sentence of slow and horrific death in which the spinal column breaks and the organs rupture. This is the torture for the worst of outlaws – the man who protested that the sick and the poor were not allowed into the church for the crime of being perceived as UNCLEAN, rather than "pristine," and moneyed for his advocacy that the church BE a sanctuary to the sick, rather than a citadel for the rich family man, who comes to exchange invitations for tea and other such serious matters with OTHER rich family men.

David Wojnarowicz was a great artist who died a terrible death in 1992. It was one of the worst times in this country for people with AIDS. My brother, Philip-Dimitri Galas, died six years before him in 1986 of the same disease in San Diego. THERE WAS NO HOPE WHATSEOVER THEN FOR THIS DISEASE.

So what is so shocking about the truth now in 2010? Does it remind the clergy and the lawmakers of what the cross stands for: PUNISHMENT AND SAVAGE CRUELTY, and make ugly with the NICE and FRIENDLY WARM xmas spirit?

WHO in countries other than our own are dying horrific death of AIDS this Christmas? Christmas comes but once a year.

AND YOUR LIFE? It comes to you but once.

Diamanda Galás
NYC, Dec 2 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eric Lott : A l'assaut du ciel! : Deturning the Twin Towers : August 1974

Eric Lott : A l'assaut du ciel! : Deturning the Twin Towers : August 1974

Wednesday, December 8 · 7:00pm - 9:00pm
721 Broadway, 6th Floor, Room 612

In August 1974, French street performer Philippe Petit made an illegal high-wire walk between the tops of the World Trade Center's newly completed Twin Towers. Petit's response to the Haussmanization of lower Manhattan is a classic Situationist "detournement": not explicitly political, it intervenes in the urban psychogeography of everyday life to reinvent not just the space between the towers but also spatial relations on the ground.

Eric Lott teaches American Studies at the University of Virginia. He has written and lectured widely on the politics of U.S. cultural history. He is currently finishing a study of race and culture in the twentieth century entitled "Tangled Up in Blue: The Cultural Contradictions of American Racism."!/event.php?eid=144029322313586&index=1